You might think that shopping for food allergies at the supermarket is stressful simply because it entails lots of research and label reading on each product.
That's only part of it. Commenters on my Nut-Free Mom Facebook page reminded me recently of several other grocery shopping pitfalls with food allergies. This is something that I often struggled with when my daughter was very young and I'm sure many of you are in the same boat. If you are new to food allergies, you will want to be on alert at the supermarket if you've got young kids with allergies in tow.
Shopping carts. Because many parents give their kids food (PB & J being one such popular snack) to quiet them down for a shopping trip, you will want to wipe down the cart handle if you are placing a little on in the seat of the basket. Better yet, purchase a washable shopping cart cover (like these, available at Target) to protect the seat. The bonus of shopping cart covers is that you will also cut down on exposure to colds/flu and other lovely little baby and toddler germs. If your kids want to ride in those special grocery cart "cars" just give them a good wipe down before letting them get in. Bring the wipes and let them ride. You'll miss the days when they no longer want to do this...at least I think you will.
Food samples. If you don't have food allergies, free food samples may seem like a lovely way to spend an afternoon. However, if you or your child has food allergies, you will soon come to view this situation as "food pushing." Be on alert for these kindly but sometimes clueless folks--one mom who commented on my Facebook page said that, while on a recent grocery trip, somebody handed her peanut-allergic child a trail mix sample (contains peanuts!!) while her back was turned and she had to quickly wrench it from her child's hands. If this happens to you, please nicely tell the food sample rep that they might want to think twice before handing food out to children--your child has severe allergies. If this continues to be a problem, contact store management. They may need to issue these reminders as well.
The deli. My daughter doesn't have dairy allergies, so one of my kids' favorite things was to get the "free" piece of cheese when I made my deli order. That was OK for us--wouldn't be for many. Obviously, the deli counter can have all sorts of free items on offer that kids might be offered (or that might be in grabbing distance). I've seen crackers, mixed nuts, etc. all out for display at various supermarket delis.
The bakery. This one was always the heart breaker for us when my daughter was little. At SuperTarget, they offered my daughter cookies even as we passed by, quickly, on our way past the bakery items (supermarket bakery items are unsafe for nut allergies.) Kindly refuse and teach your child to refuse. Sometimes I would say "She has allergies" in the hope that it might deter them the next time.
Bulk bins. Candy, peanuts, and all types of other foods may be in kid-level bulk bins at the supermarket. Be on the lookout and be sure to remind your kids that bulk bins are "hands-off."
Believe it or not, the supermarket will not always be such a drag. It really helps to talk to even very young kids about not taking food from strangers because learning to nicely refuse foods is going to be a life-long skill.
Any food allergy pitfalls at your local supermarket? Let us know!